Will your creative software run on the Mac Pro 2013?

Neil Bennett
12 June, 2013
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While the design of Apple’s new Mac Pro has raised many eyebrows, it’s choice of graphics chips that may make a difference to the applications you use every day. Tools such as After Effects and Nuke will need to be updated before they can take advantage of all that the 2013 Mac Pro has to offer.

Announced on Monday, the 2013 Mac Pro has dual graphics chips from AMD‘s FirePro range. Apple hasn’t said which cards are included, but from the quoted specs they appear to be the same chips as found in AMD’s top-of-the-line FirePro W9000 graphics card – which feature 6GB of graphics RAM (and ECC RAM at that), a 384-bit memory interface and 264GBps memory bandwidth.

The Mac Pro is the only professional Mac with graphics chips from AMD – both the MacBook Pro and iMac offer Nvidia chips only. As both company’s lines support OpenGL for 3D graphics processing, whether the new Mac Pro has AMD or Nvidia graphics seems of limited influence at first glance – but each company offer specific technologies for optimising 3D graphics (such as Nvidia’s OptiX) and accelerating video processing and other 2D effects (where Nvidia favours its own CUDA technology, while AMD uses OpenGL’s cousin tech OpenCL).

The choice of FirePro graphics chips may concern After Effects users, where Adobe has favoured Nvidia cards – tapping into its CUDA technology so that AE CS6 and CC’s ray-traced 3D renderer can only tap Nvidia GPUs, not AMD ones (though it can still run using the CPU-only, albeit more slowly). See the AE CC and AE CS6 tech specs for more details.

However, unless Adobe is restricted by some exclusive deal with Nvidia, we expect that After Effects CC (above) will be updated in the future so its ray-traced 3D renderer supports the FirePro cards by the time the Mac Pro ships. However, those sticking with After Effects CS6 may not be so lucky, as Adobe is focusing its development plans on Creative Cloud.

GPU acceleration in the Mac version of Premiere Pro CS6 is also locked to specific card – again the tech specs list primarily Nvidia models, though two AMD chips in specific 2011 MacBook Pro models are supported. Again only time will tell if Adobe updates the CS6 version of the new Mac Pro.

Premiere Pro CC offers wider support, being optimised for both AMD cards (using OpenCL) and NVidia cards (using the CUDA platform). Again, there’s a set list, but it shouldn’t be much effort to add the Mac Pro – and the W9000s we suspect are in the 2013 Mac Pro are supported on Windows.

Non-post-production-specific tools such as PhotoshopIllustratorInDesign et al are not affected.

The Foundry’s NukeX 7.0, which adds GPU acceleration to the standard Nuke edition, requires an Nvidia card. Some GPU-accelerated third-party plug-ins, such as GenArts Sapphire, also require a CUDA-supporting Nvidia graphics card.

The Foundry has also used the launch of the Mac Pro to announce a Mac version of its Mari 3D painting application, due later this year.

For the other key Mac-based editing systems, Avid’s Media Composer 6.5 – and the forthcoming 7 – and Autodesk Smoke 2013 use OpenGL only, while Apple’s own Final Cut Pro X uses OpenCL for GPU-accelerated effects (so works with both AMD and Nvidia boards).

For 3D artists, certification seems to be the only issue. Autodesk’s Maya 2014 is certified on the Mac for NVidia Quadro cards only – but AMD chips, such as those in the 2011 Cinema 4D includes no hardware brand-specific functionality.

Where companies will have to expend more effort to optimise their software for the new Mac Pro is in that it has two graphics chips. For example, while Premiere Pro CC’s Mercury Engine can tap both GPUs for video encoding and output, it can’t for real-time video effects.

by Neil Bennett, Digital Arts Online 


Check out the following links for more WWDC news, analysis and discussion:

iOS 7
Help: FAQ: everything you need to know about iOS 7
Blogs: 27 new iOS 7 features Apple didn’t talk about
News: Apple unveils iOS 7
Blogs: iOS 7: how its latest features stack up to Android
Blogs: Siri in iOS 7: Apple still playing catch up with Google, but moving aggressively
News: Siri gets smarter in iOS 7, ditches Google for search
Blogs: What Apple’s new AirDrop data sharing says about NFC
News: Apple’s law enforcement critics ‘appreciative’ of new activation lock

OS X Mavericks
Help: FAQ: everything you need to know about OS X Mavericks
News: Apple previews OS X ‘Mavericks’
News: iBooks to come to the Mac
News: Safari gets energy-efficient update in Mavericks

MacBook Air
Features: Lab tested: Haswell MacBook Air benefits from faster graphics, flash storage
News: New MacBook Airs get better battery life & graphics performance
News: Apple’s Mac move could spur PCIe flash flurry in notebooks, desktops
News: Intel’s new Haswell chips may be hot, but not in a good way

Mac Pro
News: The wait is nearly over: Apple unveils new Mac Pro
Features: The new Mac Pro: what you need to know
Help: Will your creative software run on the Mac Pro 2013?

Blogs: iOS 7, Mavericks and more: developers react to WWDC announcements
Blogs: Apple’s events move on, and so does the company
Blogs: Meet the new Apple, same as the old Apple
News: The Apple Design Award winners
News: Apple’s big-screen TV was a no-show at WWDC, but analysts say it’s coming soon
News: Anki’s AI cars show off App Store strength

News: Apple sees chance to compete with Office on the web
News: iWork for iCloud highlights productivity suite update

iTunes Radio
News: Apple gets into the stream of things with iTunes Radio



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